As with all scriptures, context is everything and Isaiah 63v14 can be found by clicking here. Isaiah reminds the people of the travails faced as they left Egypt and the exodus that followed. A period in which the generation who had been slaves in Egypt had left in the hope of seeing the Promised Land yet failed to enter it – even though their children would inherit the promise. Until then, there is a period of waiting, a time of endeavour and, on occasions, resting on the plain. And though God’s Spirit directs them, they still question:
‘Why, Lord, do you make us wander from your ways
and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?’ (v17)
How sad that we humans can so easily wander from God and not revere the Creator of all things. And yet, God knows are weakness and how we will fall and fail him – and still He loves us.
It is hard to understand this verse without context – by that I mean the circumstances into which the prophet Isaiah speaks his words. In v1 Isaiah speaks these words to the king and people of Israel:
‘Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.’ (Isaiah 31v1 NIV)
As the people of God, Israel had been singled out to reveal to the nations around them the benefits of God’s blessings and protection – the idea was to be an example by which other nations would see the benefits and choose to follow their God also. However, Israel’s dalliance with other nations and their religious practices- also known as syncretism – had left them alienated from their own God. Which in turn now made them fearful of the nations around them and the possibility of being invaded.
Now, while the sensible solution for Israel would have been to repent and seek forgiveness, the king and the people decide to go it alone and form an alliance with Egypt. Hence why in verse 3 God reminds Israel that while the Egyptians may have lots of chariots, they are made of flesh and unable to save them. In short, those who rely upon and fight with the Egyptians will inevitably perish with them. So what does this passage have to say about our lives today – put simply, sometimes when a problem is too large for us to handle, we do well to throw ourselves onto God for his help and mercy. Human intellect and strength is useful but it is not always the solution. For as Psalm 51v9 informs us, ‘the sacrifice of God (is) a broken spirit; (and) a broken and contrite heart, God… will not despise.’
It is easy in this verse to misunderstand what is being said by the prophet. The reference to a spirit of judgement and a spirit of fire seems to suggest that multiple spirits are in operation – each with their own particular function. And yes, our New Testament understanding is that there is One God and One Spirit so how are we to understand this?
“I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
Hot on the heels of the last post, Ezekiel is future telling what exactly will happen for everyone – God’s Spirit will enable the people to come close to God. Unlike the person before who when physically meeting with a king is required to keep their head bowed out of fear that their unworthiness of being in such a position will affect them – the Holy Spirit within each of us now facilitates a sense of peace and acceptance that we are in a relationship with God in which we will not be rejected because Christ lives in each – and God will not reject those in whom He lives!
A few years ago, I taught a lovely group of people from a local church about primary and formational gifts. What was great was seeing their eyes light up as they discovered the different ways God had equipped them to be pastors, evangelists, prophets, teachers, preachers, servers etc. During the debrief afterwards, only a couple said they knew their primary spiritual gift prior to attending – the vast majority had no idea what their unique spiritual gift was, which got me thinking….
Is it the case that there is not enough teaching on spiritual gifts within the church?
Now, although many churches extol the importance of spiritual gifts, few prioritise it in their teaching schedules. One reason for this I believe is a presumption by leaders that the flock will somehow discover their spiritual gifts for themselves. Aside from the reality that this is an unlikely outcome it also highlights the worrying reality of how not all church leaders are aware of the importance of exercising spiritual gifts – basic and supernatural.
There are many reasons why this happens. Sometimes, the minister may not understand the subject well enough themselves and avoids teaching about primary and supernatural gifts. Other times, the emphasis might solely focus on a reliance of ‘supernatural gifting’ (tongues, prophesy, interpretation, etc) at the expense of basic spiritual gifts.
All of which means, every christian has a responsibility to research and discover their spiritual gifts for themselves. When hungry, we don’t wait for someone to feed us. Likewise, we shouldn’t wait for a minister to do it for us. Indeed, it could be the minister’s primary gift s not as a teacher which means you may have to provide that particular sermon series. Okay, if you don’t know your primary spiritual gift and the others that accompany it, then take the free spiritual gift test now by clicking the link below. www.primarygift.co.uk
All the best!
There are many reasons why Christians may fail to discern their spiritual gifts within their churches. In the series starting today we will consider six reasons. The first of these being:
‘a pervading culture of volunteerism.’
It’s no surprise that many church leaders when faced with gaping holes in church minstry areas often resort to taking matters in their own hands. For some, this might result in a plea from the front of church seeking people to help with youth work. Or to assist with creche. Or to be part of a social action group or children’s ministry. Naturally, it makes perfect sense to ask people to help out where no one presently exists to run it. However, useful as volunteers are as a temporary fix to an ongoing problem, they are never the complete answer as that will always involves someone with a God-given passion for the ministry and the accompanying spiritual gift that will drive and sustain it in the long term.
What usually happens when servant-hearted people help out with a spiritual ministry outside of their own passion and calling is that they find themselves ill-equipped for what they have been asked to do. While there is nothing wrong with helping out in the short-term, problems occur when ‘temporary’ ends up replacing ‘long term.’
While volunteerism is always a short-term fix for churches, the wise minister audits his or her congregation to elicit each person’s passion and the primary spiritual gifts they possess – maybe as teacher? Or preacher? Or pastor? Or evangelist? etc. Only as leaders move to this type of forward planning will the need for volunteers be replaced by a congregation where each person knows their God-given passion and equipping that is ready-made for that particular vacant ministry within the church. Be blessed!
ps If you don’t know which one of the eleven spiritual gifts is your primary spiritual gift – that is, the one you should occupy a large percentage of your ministry time – why not take the test to find out. https://www.primarygift.co.uk/take-spiritual-gift-test/
ps You will need to be connected to printer to download materials and descriptors.
‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.’ (Matthew 9v37)
Okay, having dealt with the binary understanding of how a person either knows or doesn’t know their spiritual gift, we turn our attention to a fourth response people sometimes give as a reason for not deving deeper into investigating their spiritual gifts- that being:
‘I already know my spiritual gift’ (note: singular).
Now while it is true that God gives all believers one ‘stand out’ spiritual gift – often referred to as a ‘primary gift’ – which should be used most of the time, there is potential to possess a Continue reading The ‘how to’ on growing God’s kingdom?